Posts from — February 2011
There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there, and if you believe some of them you could go crazy. I don’t see, for example, how a small group of rich and powerful bankers could actually be running the world. And what’s up with those stories of black government helicopters getting set to round up American civilians and put them in underground internment camps? Furthermore, I don’t think the U.S. government is importing guillotines from France to cut off our heads so they can subvert America and establish a One World government.
But when a journalistic icon claims that U.S. foreign policy has been hijacked by a cabal of neoconservative crusaders, I pay attention. I know it sounds like a cloak-and-dagger novel but I tend to believe Seymour Hersh (pictured above) when he tells Georgetown University’s students in Doha, Qatar that top ranking military brass “are all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta.”
The Knights of Malta? That’s a secretive Roman Catholic order. And, according to Hersh:
They see themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They’re protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function.
They have little insignias, these coins they pass among each other, which are crusader coins. They have insignia that reflect the whole notion that this is a culture war. … Right now, there’s a tremendous, tremendous amount of anti-Muslim feeling in the military community.
It’s hard to believe that the top military brass in the world’s most powerful democracy are pushing for a remake of the medieval Crusades, but if Seymour Hersh says that’s going on behind the scenes I’m not going to question his credibility.
After all, he’s been right in the past when his investigative pieces in The New Yorker were greeted with skepticism from critics. You might recall his expose of Dick Cheney’s secret assassination squad, how he was derided and then vindicated. And he also exposed the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam and Abu Ghraib atrocities in Iraq.
So I am prepared to accept the award-winning journalist’s allegation that a secretive religious group has way too much influence on America’s foreign policy.
Far-right groups (especially those with a religious affiliation) seem to be adept at infiltrating U.S. institutions.
While everyday Americans go about their business, believing that their government is controlled by the people and policies they voted for, secret forces are at work behind he scenes, pulling the levers of power.
And unseen influences are not restricted to the military in America.
Among those identified as members of the Knights of Malta are former CIA directors William Casey and John McCone, Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca, and media pundit Pat Buchanan.
A Salon.com article by Matthew Phelan elaborates on Hersh’s lecture:
In addition to Casey and McCone, the Knights of Malta also counted among their members former CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton – a fortuitous alliance as Angleton led the postwar intelligence efforts to subvert Italy’s 1948 elections. His success partnering with organized crime, right-leaning former fascists and the Vatican not only marginalized Italy’s homegrown Communist Party, it also encouraged Congress in the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Conservative luminary and National Review founder William F. Buckley – who spent two years after college as a CIA “political action specialist” in Mexico City – was also a Knight, as was none other than William “Wild Bill” Donovan, the head of the CIA’s precursor organization, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). From 1970 to 1981, France’s intelligence agency was also headed by a member of the Order, Alexandre de Marenches. De Marenches would go on to be a co-founder of the Saudi-funded private intelligence group the Safari Club – one of George H. W. Bush’s many end-runs around congressional oversight of the American intelligence establishment and the locus of many of the worst features of the mammoth BCCI scandal.
So, while crackpot speculations about this particular Catholic order are legion, its ties to intelligence organizations in the U.S. and Western Europe are well-documented. It’s also perfectly understandable: with their unusual status as a recognized sovereign state without territory, the Knights of Malta enjoy full diplomatic rights in many countries – including the ability to bypass customs inspectors by secreting items across borders via “diplomatic pouch.” Sharing far right sympathies, the Roman Catholic Church and Cold War-era Western intelligence officials became natural allies, and the Knights of Malta became a natural conduit for their collaboration. With a lengthy, strategic partnership already forged in the name of anti-communism, a strengthening of this network in the name of the “War on Terror” ought to sound more predictable than paranoid to a student of U.S. foreign policy – particularly given the current pope’s record on Islam.
I am sure the Knights of Malta are not the only ones who have infiltrated America’s corridors of power. I have read several reports of hidden Zionist influence, for example – not to mention the legion of special interest groups and their lobbyists.
With all these Spy-Meets-Spy shenanigans going on in Washington, are you surprised that everything’s so messed up?
February 28, 2011 1 Comment
I hold no brief for Ronald Reagan. I think his “legend” is an example of the slick propaganda at which Republicans are so adept. But there’s one thing he did that scratches where I itch. When a tinpot dictator named Muammar Abu Minyar Gaddafi announced that he was training suicide squads to attack American and European interests and claimed responsibility for bombing a West Berlin nightclub, Reagan ordered missile strikes on the dictator’s home bases.
The strikes didn’t get Gaddafi (click here for alternate spellings) but he claimed his “adopted daughter” was killed. That claim might have been only Libyan propaganda designed to elicit sympathy, but the strikes did their job: The “mad dog of Africa” (as Reagan described him) dialed down his terrorist attacks after that.
I know there are valid moral arguments against the assassination of “mad dogs” like Gaddafi, but as a practical matter, I can’t think of a better response to the wholesale butchery he has inflicted on his people.
The deadly megalomaniac (getting himself crowned as :king of all of Africa: in photo above) must be eliminated to save the lives of thousands.
The United Nations’ decision to impose “sanctions” on Libya is totally inadequate.
Indeed, if it weren’t so tragic, it would be comical.
It’s like telling a homicidal maniac that if he doesn’t stop killing people you will freeze his bank account.
If the UN had any guts, there would be boots on the ground in Libya long before this. Gaddafi’s mercenaries would have been been repelled and the people of Libya would be rejoicing in the streets.
And I am less than thrilled by President Obama’s declaration that Gaddafi needs to “leave now, having lost the legitimacy to rule.”
No kidding, Mr. President. I’m sure Gaddafi will come to his senses now that you have pointed that out.
Sometimes, being too civilized can be soooo exasperating. To me, anyway.
I think it’s high time for the world to end the tut-tutting and finger wagging and blow the SOB and his sons to blazes.
February 27, 2011 1 Comment
Of course I know that all Tea Party folks don’t think alike. I realize that the movement is basically a marriage of opposites – people who want to tell others how to run their lives and people who want to be left alone.
But a common theme is emerging that illustrates the sorry level of logic both these groups are able to achieve.
I’m talking about the twin peaks of their economic agenda: slashing taxes for corporations and the rich while reducing the deficit and balancing the budget.
I must be missing something here.
Do they really believe that reducing the government’s revenue will eliminate the government’s debt?
Here’s Florida Governor Rick Scott (photo above), a Tea Party darling, on that topic:
We still have ridiculously high taxes. We’re walking into a $1.6 trillion deficit.
In Florida, he wants to give corporations a free ride as far as taxes are concerned. He is also refusing to accept federal funds for a high-speed rail project that would generate thousands of jobs and fuel development in Central Florida – a project that would produce a robust revenue stream for the state.
To make up for this – and to help Florida balance its budget – the newly elected governor is laying off thousands of government workers and choking off funds to municipalities and schools (which are mandated by a recently passed constitutional amendment to limit class size) . He also plans to Scrooge the sick and the poor.
And he hopes to bust the unions. Here’s how he put it in a TV interview:
If you didn’t have collective bargaining, would it be better for the state? Absolutely.
Let’s see. Wipe out the unions. Cut taxes for Big Business. Underfund education. Starve the kids. Let the sick get sicker and – untreated – spread disease. Force the poor to resort to crime to feed their families. Meanwhile, he also plans to close the prisons he is going to need.
This is a prescription for a prosperous society?
This bozo is supposed to be a shrewd businessman. He was CEO of a health care company that stole millions from Medicare. Is that smart or what? Especially since they were caught with their fingers in the till.
Is there no light of intelligence behind those opaque eyes?
Can’t he figure out that by laying off workers he will – hello! – increase unemployment? Doesn’t he understand that the unemployed won’t be able to buy stuff? And what does he think that will do to sales taxes?
And by undermining education, doesn’t he realize he will be sabotaging the work force? How will the state provide skilled workers for the corporations that he plans to attract with his tax cuts and union busting? Won’t companies – especially high-tech operations – locate elsewhere, in an area where an educated workforce is available?
And does he believe the corporate elite will want to live an a state where the roads are potholed and overloaded, where beggars clog the sidewalks and burglars infest the night, where the air is heavy with the stench of disease and suffering, and where there are no decent schools for their children?
So let’s cut those taxes for the rich and for Big Business, Big Oil and the Agribusiness giants. Let’s reduce the standard of living for the rest of us to the level enjoyed in a Third World barrio. And then let’s see how many rich people want to spend their tax breaks in such a society.
My bet is that they will take the tax-break money and spend it someplace where the living is pleasant.
I know I would.
February 26, 2011 2 Comments
I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of bad things about trade unions. Some of it is undoubtedly deserved. But most of it is propaganda. For decades now, the conservative noise machine has been on a tear in America, building the case for the attack on unions that you are now witnessing.
For a lot of reasons, union membership has declined in America’s private sector, and is now well below 10 percent. But about a third of the workers in the public sector belong to unions. And that’s where the radical right is concentrating its assault.
If the attack succeeds, the effects will be dire.
Nearly all of the benefits enjoyed by the American middle class were won by unions. Non-union employers were obliged to match union benefits and wage increases to compete for skilled workers.
But as union membership declined, the income gap widened. And today, the disparity between rich and poor is shocking.
As the charts below illustrate, the bottom ninety percent of American wage earners make an average of $31,244 a year, while the top 1 percent make over $1.1 million. And the income of most workers has been at a near-standstill since 1979, while earnings for the top 1 percent have quadrupled.
So for those of us who value benefits like weekends and paid vacations, sick leave and employer provided pensions, the battle between the radical right and America’s unions has enormous implications.
For once the corporations and their political hacks break the unions, it won’t be long before working conditions in America deteriorate to the level of a Third World country.
As thepoet John Donne observed, ask not for whom the bell tolls.
February 25, 2011 3 Comments
Sometimes, I’ll be watching a sports event, and wonder whether the referees – or umpires – have been bribed. It happens a lot in football, where there are so many fouls that it’s up to the officials to decide which ones to call. Considering the prevalence of gambling on ball games and who controls the ostensibly illegal industry, I wonder whether it’s the officials who decide who wins or loses.
Why am I babbling about sports events?
Because they remind me so much of politics.
Sandra (born in the USA) gets quite put out when I talk about class conflict. She learned in school that social classes don’t exist in America as they do in places like the United Kingdom and Jamaica.
If you suggest to Americans that there’s class warfare going on, they will probably think you are some kind of Marxist – or at least a “socialist.” This is a society of equal opportunity, they insist. Look, buddy, the only one standing in your way is you. So get out there and hustle your buns. If you’re smart and work hard, you’ll get rich.
If you believe that, you haven’t been paying attention.
The facts are irrefutable. Capital and labor are mutually antagonistic – in America or anywhere. Capital prospers by exploiting labor. Workers prosper by fighting for a fair share of the profits.
In today’s global economy, the conflict is palpable. I am sure you know how capital has fled the unionized western countries and resettled in low-wage countries where abuses like child labor are common, where workers have no rights and where the environment has no protection.
So who made this possible by abolishing tariffs on goods entering countries like America from countries like China?
In the inevitable contest between capital and labor, an even-handed government is essential to ensure a level playing field. The politicians are the referees. And today the politicians are nearly all bought and paid for by Big Business.
Tragically, in the game of life and death, the referees have been bribed.
For an example of the relationship between the corporate class and politicians, just click here to listen to this prank call featuring Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and a reporter posing as Walker’s patron, David Koch:
February 24, 2011 2 Comments
To some extent, we’re all chameleons. We usually try to blend in with the background, reluctant to attract embarrassing attention. We go with the flow and don’t rock the boat.
But sometimes events rule out that option.
Sometimes we have to announce our presence and stand up for the things that matter to us.
This is one of those times.
If we believe in fairness and decency, we cannot ignore the abuses that have become flagrant in America since the election last fall of members of a fanatical cult, who are wreaking havoc in Congress and in state legislatures across America.
We cannot just shrug our shoulders when the underlying principles of American society – of every decent society – are under vicious attack. As former Obama administration executive Van Jones reminds us in yesterday’s Huffington Post:
After all, it is the American Dream that the GOP’s “slash and burn” agenda is killing off. We need a movement dedicated to renewing the idea that hard work pays in our country; that you can make it if you try; that America remains a land committed to dignity, justice and opportunity for all. Right now, this very idea is on the GOP chopping block. And we must rescue it now — or risk losing it forever.
America will not make it through this crisis healthy and whole if – at the first sign of trouble – we are willing to throw away millions of our everyday heroes. Our teachers, police officers, firefighters, nurses and others make our communities and country strong. Their daily work is essential to the smooth functioning and long-term success of our nation. An attack on them is an attack on the backbone of America.
Jones is one of thousands - hundreds of thousands - who have had enough. Protests are spreading across America in response to the savage attacks on America’s workers launched by right-wing activists and funded by voracious corporations (photo above shows protesters in Wisconsin).
The “Move On” organization is mobilizing resistance to the Republican assault. In an appeal for signatures to support their crusade, Move On explains:
In Wisconsin and around our country, the American Dream is under fierce attack. Instead of creating jobs, Republicans are giving tax breaks to corporations and the very rich, and then cutting funding for education, police, emergency response and vital human services. The right to organize is on the chopping block. The American Dream is slipping out of reach for more and more Americans, and we have to fight back.
We call for emergency rallies in front of every statehouse this Saturday at noon to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin. Demand an end to the attacks on workers’ rights and public services across the country. Demand investment, to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work. And demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share.
Help prevent the American Dream from becoming a nightmare. Join the wake-up call here.
February 23, 2011 1 Comment
It seems to me that institutions should exist for the benefit of people and not the other way around. But as I mull over the state of affairs in the world, I can’t avoid the conclusion that most of today’s governments operate to enrich global corporations at the expense of their citizens.
I am not talking only about the dictators in China, who long ago discarded their Marxist notions and now use their iron fists to pound productivity out of the population.
I am talking about America, the United Kingdom and most of the “capitalist” world as well.
What puzzles me is that the “democracies” and the “dictatorships” seem so similar in their eagerness to do the will of the global corporations.
I would have thought that when the people choose a government, they would opt for policies that benefit them. But that is increasingly not the case.
In America, for example, voters recoil in horror from proposals that would make their lives better, and embrace policies that enrich corporations at their expense.
That’s what happened in November’s U.S. elections. And the consequences are being felt today in places like Wisconsin (click here to read a very perceptive article about that horror).
I find it hard to believe that the Supreme Court is entirely to blame for the U.S. election’s disastrous results, although the justices’ ruling that corporations should enjoy the same political rights as individuals was certainly a contributing factor. The ruling opened a floodgate of corporate cash that swamped the airwaves with right-wing propaganda and funded “grassroots” movements dedicated to getting extremist conservatives elected.
But surely people aren’t so impressionable that it takes nothing more than an avalanche of preposterous propaganda to bend them to the corporate will?
I know that most Americans are terrified of the prospect of “socialism,” whatever they conceive it to be.
But is that also true in the United Kingdom? And everywhere else?
To tell the truth, I am mystified.
I used to think that corporate profiteering had some justification because anyone can buy corporate shares, so there’s nothing to prevent you or me from getting some of the loot. But it hasn’t worked out that way.
The truth is that about 5 percent of Americans own about 70 percent of the shares in the market. And the gap is even wider in other countries.
The stock market has become far too complex for ordinary investors. The idea that workers would benefit from it through their 401(k) and pension plans, for example, was shattered by recent financial disasters.
Corporations don’t belong to the people; the people belong to the corporations. So do the governments.
And that explains a lot of the oppressive political policies that are prevalent today.
It might also explain what’s going on in the Middle East. It could be that the populations there have grown weary of the corporate yolk imposed by dictators and Big Business, and have decided to risk their lives in the pursuit of a better political system.
They might be ahead of a worldwide curve.
February 22, 2011 No Comments
If there were any justice, the Koch brothers would be arrested as terrorists. After all, there is more than one way to destroy innocent lives in order to intimidate the masses and bend politicians to your will. Bombs and grenades are one way. Funding extremist politicians who introduce oppressive policies is another.
Guns don’t kill people, the gun nuts say, people do.
And following that line of reasoning, economic and social devastation don’t kill people; the politicians who cause the devastation do.
Which brings us to the Koch brothers.
The New Yorker Magazine recently exposed the machinations of these diabolical villains. The story (click here to read it) could have come from a James Bond screenplay, for Charles and David Koch are bent on destroying the world as we know it.
And the billionaire coal barons have the money to do so.
You see they have amassed billions by exploiting and endangering coal miners and poisoning the air we breathe. And they are dedicated to preserving their right to keep on doing so.
One way, of course, is to emasculate the federal government, leaving it powerless to protect the public good.
With this agenda, it is not surprising that the Koch brothers are leaders of America’s far-right political fringe. Their father, Fred C. Koch, was a co-founder of the John Birch Society. And they are maintaining the family tradition – with a vengeance.
During the 2008 elections, Koch Industries contributed billions (directly and indirectly) to Tea Party candidates. One of these candidates was Scott Walker, the Republican governor engaged in a brutal attempt to break the unions representing public employees in Wisconsin.
Naturally, the Kochs are now shelling out more funds to drum up support for the union-busting governor as public resentment boils over against him.
Faced with this kind of concentrated evil and this kind of overwhelming power, what can an old codger like me do?
Unfortunately, I am not James Bond, and I have no MI 5 or clever gadgets with which to fight the dastardly duo.
But I can refuse to buy Brawny paper towels. I can also bypass such items as Dixie Cups, Angel Soft and Quilted Northern toilet paper, Stainmaster carpets, Vanity Fair and Mardis Gras napkins, and all Georgia Pacific products.
I know… It sounds so puny. But an ant can move a rubber tree plant – with help from enough other ants.
Won’t you join me? And you? And you? And you?
February 20, 2011 12 Comments
Look folks, this is serious business. We’ve been writing stuff and reading stuff and tut-tutting and finger wagging long enough. It’s time to hit the bricks.
If you live in the USA and you can get to a protest rally, go for it.
If you can’t physically join a protest, write to the newspaper and to your political representatives, phone somebody who is supposed to be representing you, or at least sign a petition like this one (click here to read the petition).
The goons are attacking on every front, and if we don’t fight back, they will take over the country.
Do not listen to the BS about the deficit. Nobody is trying to reduce the deficit. Nobody.
You don’t reduce the deficit by slashing taxes for corporations and the rich while escalating the war in Afghanistan.
The stuff you read and hear about Social Security, Medicare, welfare and so on is a sham!
Refute it whenever you get the chance. Explain to friends, family and neighbors that the Great Financial Crisis is being deliberately engineered to create a pretext for social change.
For cutting off federal funds to Planned Parenthood…
For bringing back the criminalization of abortion…
For busting unions…
For gutting food stamps and child care…
For destroying Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid…
For ending unemployment insurance, veterans’ assistance, homeless shelters, anything that is compassionate or civilized…
For abolishing the honest voice of public broadcasting…
For replacing everything decent and good in America with the brutal, bloody boots of economic Darwinism – root hog or die… root hog and still die!
This a rich man’s revolution. The corporations are attacking the middle class.
If Americans do not rise up against the assault, wages in this country will fall to the level of those in India, China, Taiwan and Bangladesh. That’s what globalization is really about!
That’s what the political hacks are trying to achieve.
First, they set it up so that the factories and the jobs leave the country. Then they slash taxes for the corporations and the rich, and squander America’s resources by waging war. Then they use the resulting financial crisis as an excuse to break the unions and create massive unemployment.
Can’t you see what will happen if the Washington goons are allowed to succeed?
Wages and working conditions in America will inevitably decline to match the lowest in the world. That is the price the corporations are demanding for returning their production facilities to America.
Education will decline as funds are withheld, scientific thought will be suppressed, superstition and bigotry will prevail. The Dark Ages will descend on the nation, bringing poverty and ignorance, injustice and oppression.
And that is the price the politicians are prepared to pay.
Unless we stop them.
(In the St. Pete Times photo above, Tami Shadduck, a sexual health educator for Planned Parenthood, kisses her daughter Leila Wallace at a rally in St. Petersburg, Florida.)
February 19, 2011 5 Comments
Anyone who is paying attention can see that the United States is teetering on the edge of economic disaster. The massive national debt (about 14 trillion and increasing as I type) is unsustainable. The federal government’s revenue might not be able to keep up with the interest on the debt, and if that happens, America’s financial house of cards would come tumbling down.
It seems obvious to me that the solution to this frightening problem is to increase the government’s revenue potential.
So I am dumbfounded by the prevailing strategy apparently favored by both Republicans and Democrats in Washington – cutting taxes and choking off federal spending.
The double-whammy can have only one result – decreasing federal revenue.
I know it sounds strange to suggest that the answer to massive debt is more government spending. But there’s really no reasonable alternative. The national economy must be revived to restore the federal government’s revenue stream.
By laying off hundreds of thousands of public employees and cutting back social programs, the government will starve the country’s marketplace of the money that keeps it alive.
Think about it – all those people collecting unemployment insurance, further straining the nation’s resources.
Then think about the empty stores, repossessed cars, foreclosed homes, barren fields, deserted airports and seaports…
Think about the cost as crime explodes, prisons are overloaded, and unemployed youths throng the streets, with nothing to do but make mischief…
Think about the declining tax revenue as payrolls shrink.
Does anyone really believe that the tiny minority who will have money to spend will spend it in America, creating jobs? Why would they? Many of them don’t even live in America, and others live in America only some of the time.
By slashing taxes for corporations and the rich, America is siphoning its wealth into the coffers of financiers and investors from around the world.
Americans have given away their jobs and their technology. Now they are giving away their capital.
If you look closely, you will see a self-perpetuating downward spiral that has no bottom.
I can’t believe America’s politicians are too blind to see this.
So I must conclude that someone is deliberately bringing the nation to its knees.
It’s a strategy known as “creative destruction,” in which economic havoc is the prelude to social change.
It is no secret that many conservatives are intent on turning back the clock.
On the eve of the recent elections, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina warned that Republicans would turn back the clock if elected. He predicted – accurately as it turns out – that minorities would lose ground on health care and education.
Minorities are not the only ones who are being affected.
The “new conservatives” are trying to turn back the clock in every conceivable way, with a broad-based assault on the rights of women, gays, workers -you name it.
I call your attention to events in Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker has threatened to use the National Guard against state workers protesting his proposed revocation of their right to organize.
That’s a flashback to a different society – an America in which the rich and powerful ruled with an iron fist. Writing in Salon today, Stephanie Taylor, a doctoral candidate in American history at Georgetown, reminds us of that era:
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, governors often mobilized the National Guard during strikes. Sometimes the Guard was genuinely neutral, assigned to buffer the dangerous zone between strikers and their employers. Other times, the Guard was explicitly charged with breaking the strike. During these instances, violence often erupted between strikers and soldiers with terrible, bloody results.
National Guard soldiers clashed with strikers in Buffalo, N.Y., Birmingham, Ala., Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Salt Lake City and Telluride, Colo., at the turn of the 20th century. In just two years, between 1911 and 1913, the militia was mobilized against coal miners in West Virginia, textile workers in Massachusetts, textile workers in New Jersey, and copper miners in Michigan. During an infamous bloodbath in 1914, soldiers killed striking coal miners and their families in Ludlow, Colo., including at least six men, two women and 12 children.
During the 1934 Auto-Lite strike in Toledo, a battle raged for five days between 6,000 strikers and 1,300 members of the Ohio National Guard, leaving two strikers dead and more than 200 injured. Three years later, during the famous occupation of General Motors in Flint, Mich., the governor ordered thousands of soldiers to the factory, as the workers swore to resist them by force.
And in Wisconsin, Gov. Albert Schmedeman used the National Guard to disrupt a 1933 strike by dairy farmers, sometimes with bayonets and tear gas, when they tried to raise the price of milk. Newspapers reported that he was preparing for a “bona fide war.” The Guard mobilized again the next year during a strike by the United Auto Workers. It was the last time the National Guard would be used during a strike in Wisconsin. Until, possibly, now.
Is that the society Americans want to return to?
February 18, 2011 1 Comment